Tuesday, March 25, 2008 • Diamond View School building closed

Publisher’s note: This story originally appeared in the Tuesday, March 25, 2008, edition of the Lassen County Times.

Diamond View School students face major disruptions after the Susanville Fire Department declared the school main building does not meet current standards for public school buildings.

Gary McIntire, superintendent of the Susanville School District, and the SSD Board of Trustees discussed the issue during a specific meeting held at 4:15 p.m. on Wednesday, March 19.

McIntire said safety is the top priority, and even though the school will lose the use of 18 classrooms in the main building, he didn’t think there would be any educational gaps for the students.

According to a press release from the SSD, recent inspections of Diamond View School have revealed fire and life safety problems throughout the interior structures in the main school buildings. McIntire said problems in the main school buildings began with improvements to the school made in the 1970s.

Those improvements and other work in the buildings do not comply with current building standards for public schools. Corrections to the structural deficiencies will require removal of the interior walls as well as other major modifications to comply with all current codes.

These problems do not affect the gymnasium, the multipurpose room, the school office or the portable classrooms already on the Diamond View School campus. Only the main building classrooms are affected.

McIntire said construction is already under way in the school’s gym, which will be converted to six classrooms. Another three classrooms will be created in the multipurpose room, and three modular buildings, including the computer lab also will be turned into classrooms.

“I think we’ll be able to provide a complete program for our students,” McIntire said, “just not in an ideal physical setting.”

McIntire told the board the unsafe conditions because an issue when some modification in the building were deemed unsafe by the Susanville Fire Department.

“It’s sad it has to happen this way,” said Stu Ratner, Chief of the Susanville Fire Department. “When it comes to fire and life safety, we have to uphold the standards. We just want to make sure the people are safe within the school. We have to keep the kids safety at the forefront.”

Ratner said a history of inspections at the school noted some problems that were to be corrected but never were.

“When there’s a problem and someone says they’ll take care of it, we try to work with them,” Ratner said.

Ratner said when some of the modifications to the building were made, those making them had good intentions, but they didn’t follow the code, which is the law.

According to the release from SSD, the district is working closely with the Susanville Fire Department to develop a plan to assure student and staff safety at Diamond View School. Given the extensive nature of the deficiencies in the buildings, it will not be possible to correct the problems in the period of a few months.

Diamond View School will remain closed until Wednesday, April 2, to allow time for construction and allow time for the classrooms to be moved to the new classroom spaces. Students will return to school from their Spring break that day, while the other two schools, McKinley and Meadow View, will resume classes on Monday, March 30.

McIntire said these measures should get the school through this year, but no decisions have been made about next year.

He said the district has several options, including continuing to operate the Diamond View School site or splitting the school’s students between Meadow View and McKinley schools.

The Susanville School District will post information and updates on its webpage at susanvillesd.org and messages and updates will be added to the recording at Diamond View School.